Call it a Comeback

Long story, but my son almost missed his chance to play against Kamiak’s rival Mariner in JV soccer earlier today. Again.

Don’t ask.

Last year around this time, he injured out after only playing three games, two preseason and the first regulation match (against Cascade). The night before, he felt his left MCL tear with 30 minutes left to practice. We spent several hours waiting to see a walk-in clinic doctor.

We would miss out on a small window of opportunity for him to rejoin his JV team, to at least finish the season, because of a miscommunication with the coaching staff and a hapless orthopedic PA.

He took it real badly. I vowed never again if I could help it.

Last Friday, after the second preseason game, he felt his right knee go stiff. As a precaution, I scheduled the next available with his doctor two days ago, where he received the all-clear — so long as the coach spreads the wealth around on the free kicks and James takes it easy in between games and at practices. Lots of RICE.

I tried to treat the Kamiak vs. Mariner rivalry earlier tonight like any other soccer match. I took photos of all the players in action. Worried when Mariner scored the first goal, outpacing James’ JV Kamiak Knights by leaps and bounds.

I wasn’t sure Kamiak’s JV team had the speed and the aggression to come back this time, like it did against Cascade Tuesday. But then, I noticed a few of the Mariner players struggling to keep possession, one or two near-misses and outright weak passing. A small window opened up, if Kamiak could capitalize on it.

Just as I began to relax and enjoy watching a good soccer match, regardless, I saw midfielder Edgar cross a bullet pass over toward forward Jungmin, who’d been struggling to attack the ball. Without thinking, acting purely on reflex, Jungmin jumped in a kind of half-bicycle kick, and let one of his legs snap a redirect past the Mariner keeper.

Nothing but net.

You should’ve seen the expression of pure shock and delight on Edgar’s face.

Everyone lost their minds. Kamiak had a shot.

With their lead gone in a flash, some of the Mariner players began to panic. As soon as Yannick, one of Kamiak’s fastest forwards powered past on a lucky breakaway, a Mariner defender showed his desperation by committing a blatant foul in the box, drawing a PK.

Moises won the PK easily, giving Kamiak a 2-1 lead, with way too much time left in the second half to let that stand.

Kamiak found its hustle and groove, jumping on the momentum of the two goals, dominating the pitch, working out plays, pressing ever forward, forcing Mariner to make mistakes, jump the gun, foul even more.

Then, in what would be the winning goal, my center back son sent a rocket launcher toward forward Grayson, who took advantage of the momentary shock and launched a winning third goal into the net.

Absolute bedlam. The Kamiak Knights piled on Grayson, like MLB players in the World Series — relief and shock and euphoria all over their faces. I watched them jumping, hugging, and nearly tripping over themselves in celebration. I’ve never seen the returning forward look so satisfied.

Around the seven-minute mark, Mariner caught a lucky fluke of a breakaway — the kind that ends matches and cements underdogs. This is a team known for its lightning speed and laser-like finish. My son wound up caught in the crossfire, in the wrong position to fully use his body to deflect or tackle.

He was forced to draw a handball in order to stop the Mariner momentum, knowing he had two goals to play with.

Mariner would score off that short free kick, now behind by only one goal at 3-2, with a little over two minutes left in the match.

It would be up to the Kamiak defense to hang on, which it did. Everyone, from the starters to the reserves, stepped up, playing with a fire they never showed before.

The keeper, a junior by the name of Leif Johanson, would keep Mariner from scoring at least two more direct shots on goal — popping one heartstopper over the net, and letting the rest of his team do the rest on a corner.

Final score: 3-2, Kamiak Knights.

Last year, the Mariner JV team laid waste to Kamiak, as my son watched helplessly from the sidelines — on crutches.

This year, this year would be different, as he helped his Kamiak Knights JV team beat the rival Mariner Marauders.

The Kamiak Varsity team would take to the field next, beating Mariner 3-0 in a very heated match that resulted in two red cards and two-three fist fights.

Deep inside, I felt enormous relief and pride watching my son walk off the field with his team after the game was called by the ref. He gave it his all and played the way he imagined he would when he could do nothing but cheer his teammates on.

Even better, the crazy weather held up.

I only stayed for the first 15 minutes of the Varsity game, because it was too cold. As I left, I happened to look up, locking eyes with a sad little woman in the crowd, doing her best to glare past me.

It was my former best friend, the one who said she had my back, that we were twins, that she “loved me to pieces,” the same one who fucked me over in December.

I briefly thought about smiling and saying hello to her, bygones and all. But she looked so pissed and hateful and scared shitless that I let my eyes gloss over her to another mom who innocently smiled a greeting at me.

I almost laughed.


the real Mulan

they these people attached to storybook Disney love
they will never know me, the damaged Mulan who never got to save her father but
who dies and fights and dreams inside
for their every right

the mythic dragon, feeding on the hatred of battles lost, would fall away
were it not for one orphan child waiting for God to answer her prayer
I cover her illusions with one final, heroic act, quiet whisper
soft crashes into hard, pieces of this magnificent beast
the fleshy things men poke and prod at for the village feast

I am a joke. But once I loved.

My Ballet Dream

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours looking at pictures of ballet shoes. Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

“Some days I feel broke inside, but I won’t admit.” —Christina Aguilera, “Hurt”

One of the things they don’t talk about is the loneliness of marriage and family.

Most days, I don’t mind. It’s my job to take care of my family, to sacrifice, to be there always — them over me. I think I’m even kinda good at it. After all, I’ve been raised to not be seen, not be heard, not exist except as a convenience, in the background.

Today of all days, loneliness washed over me.

I called a family meeting, where I tried to broach the subject of our son’s milestones: lettering in the Special Olympics Unified Basketball Varsity Team, getting his driver’s license, improving his grades, really improving his Math Honors grade — despite the odds of an unproven pilot program and an uncooperative absentee teacher, making the JV soccer team again.

I felt I’d not acknowledged James’ achievements enough. When he got his driver’s license, I got sick. I quarantined myself to avoid possibly giving him my terrible cold, a week before his high school soccer tryouts. The quarantine lasted well over a week for a typical cold.

I missed the report card, the tryouts, everything afterwards, trying like hell to keep him from catching what I had, to keep him safe.

Apparently, he didn’t miss me or my idea of celebration, not one iota. He lifted his head from his cell phone, and halfheartedly asked what his dad and I had been up to, to try to engage in some kind of conversation.

“Do you really care what’s going on in my life?”
“No, not really.”

I pushed. “Do you really enjoy hanging out with your parents? Do you want to do anything special?”
“Nope. I’m good.”

My husband and our son were too busy watching March Madness and scrolling social media to indulge me further. So much for my family meeting. So much for my good intentions.

After they went to bed, I watched “Leap!” about an orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina in Paris. The movie ticked off all of my own dreams as a little Korean immigrant girl growing up in America.

Believe it or not, I always wanted to be a ballerina, because of an itty bitty children’s book my mom picked up when I was four or five, living out of a trailer in Kentucky.

Love at first sight.

OMG, the cotton candy tutus and those ballet shoes with the pink ribbons that went on forever. I would feel so happy stealing long, loving looks at those ballet shoes, a happiness I never knew.

The movie also triggered a bit of emotion, fresh off the apathy train of my dismal failure of a family meeting to try and rally some togetherness. When Félicie leapt to give her surrogate mother Odette a great bit hug, the loneliness threatened to choke me to death.

I realized in that moment that I never had a mother like Odette, someone who believed in me, who saw my dreams as hers, who lived and breathed for all of my dreams to come true as if they were her own… a mother like I’ve been for my only son who — as it turns out — really could care less what I think, what I want, or who I am.

Granted, a lot of his apathy stems from sheer exhaustion. At the time, he just wanted to go to sleep. Exhaustion also makes him very very convincing when he puts on the indifferent act. On another day, he might be more present, sensitive, and caring.

But the fact is, nobody in my family has ever believed in dreams, much less thought to ask me about mine. They probably assume I don’t even have any.

They don’t bother to really look at me, or think of me, other than as a life raft during a storm.

You appreciate the life raft in a general sense, but you don’t know who the Good Samaritan is, what that person looks like, what she loves to do, what gives her life, what makes her happy. You don’t really care, either, just that she happened to be at the right place at the right time for your salvation.

And why should you? That’s not your gig.

I wish my mom, my brother, my husband, my own son — one of them, all of them — could really look at me as someone special all on her own, and give a damn about me, apart from what I can do for them.

To have even one of them defend me over a wrongful accusation… or come to me with awe in their eyes after reading something I wrote, and say, “Tell me about your life. I really, really want to know who you are,” “How did you do that?” “Were you always good at — ?” “What’s your favorite color? food? place to visit? Why?” “What makes you tick?”

What a dream. What absolute fiction.

I look back on 53 years of my life chasing after people and their love, their dreams, stronger, louder, prettier popular people… burying pieces of myself each time.

Maybe there’s still time to carve out a wonderful world of my own, with my own hopes and dreams, derive my own individual, unique happiness, where I can be both Félicie and Odette for myself… And let that be enough.

The Knee

Wonder if he went to soccer practice wearing the dressing gown shorts, LOL.

Last year around this same exact time, I got a call from my son telling me to rush over to take him to the walk-in clinic. “Mom, I heard a pop in my leg. I can’t walk.”

It was one of the worst days of our lives.

After the doctor on call cheerfully diagnosed him with an MCL tear, then made him wear this humongous, bulky brace only post-surgical patients lug around… my son fell into deep, dark despair — bordering on depression.

We were unfortunate enough to be stuck with a hapless, overly cautious, obtuse orthopedic PA who treated James as if he were amputated. As it turned out, the MCL tear healed up on its own in less than four weeks. He could’ve finished out the soccer season. But because of the clueless PA and nobody letting us know that the school required a doctor to sign off on a clearance to get back into racking up those required practices, James was forced to watch his JV soccer team from the sidelines after only playing one season match.

The absolute worst.

I felt alone. Stupid. Left out. Scolded by the IRG therapist and the rest of the secret athletic club running high school sports.

I just wanted my son to be able to play again — without jeopardizing his future. I erred on the side of caution, with the orthopedic PA. I will forever second-guess my decision.

This year, I vowed to be better, more informed, proactively more informed. My son also vowed to stay on top of his injuries, hyper-aware of any aches, pains, and unusual symptoms after every practice and game.

High school soccer is a brutal sport. Players train six days a week for two weeks in order to meet WIAA rules and regulations for eligibility, harder than in Premier/Select leagues. After the initial two weeks, they continue playing hard two hours every day for five days a week.

My son’s not used to playing soccer full bore almost every day. He usually relies on breaks in between to rest up and recuperate.

His knees take a beating.

As if on cue, this year, he began to complain of stiffness in his right knee a week ago. He’d already played two 20-minute matches in a fun Jamboree, then two preseason matches two days apart. By Sunday, he noticed the popping in his knee had stopped and stiffness taking over.

As an added precaution, he asked me to schedule a doctor’s appointment. His coach suggested early signs of a meniscus tear, no big deal.

Of course I worried myself sick. I didn’t want what happened to James last year to happen again. Can you imagine?

Good news. Today, his doctor declared him fit to practice and play soccer, with a few provisions. The coach needs to spread the wealth around, let other players do some free kicks, freeing up my son to rest in between his center back duties. James can practice with his team, but for the hardcore stuff, he must ease up, giving his slightly swollen right knee a chance to heal.

The stiffness is from water gathering, cushioning his overworked knee, a common ailment for soccer players.

Until then, RICE. Also new this year, I’ve incorporated epsom salt baths after every practice and game. On the weekends, James should elevate, ice, do his physical therapy exercises, and most of all, give himself a break.

Maybe he won’t play the entire match. But he’ll still play.


It’s nice to know we learned a lesson from last year’s disastrous injury.

Oh, and btw, the curse is broken! Tomorrow’s his next match against a rival team, the same one he missed because he was ordered to walk around in crutches.

Kamiak JV Knights come back for spectacular win against Cascade Bruins in first match of the season

Within five minutes of Tuesday’s match against the Cascade Bruins — the first of the season — the Kamiak Knights faced their greatest test as a newly formed JV team.

The Knights watched a big, burly blond defender from the Bruins make a throwaway free kick straight into the goal. Lucky shot? Or a sign of more to come?

In soccer, you never know. That’s the beauty and the frustration, of the game.

Soccer tests teams in ways perhaps only baseball can match.

The true mettle of any soccer team is the comeback. Did the Kamiak Knights have what it took to put goals of their own on the scoreboard, to win?

Forward and captain Jonathan Passey would soundly answer that question five minutes later when he made a shot on goal past the Cascade keeper, the better one of the match as it would turn out.

Last year, the JV Knights almost broke a record for ties. They were in jeopardy of doing this again — until my son, a center back, found an opening off a quick deflection pass from mid-fielder Edgar Rendiz-Barajas (a sophomore up from the C Team) to score the tie-breaking goal. Credit also goes to Jackson Erickson, a right back defender with a killer corner kick.

After that, the dam broke. The Knights jumped on the free-for-all with glee.

Additional tough defending from freshman defender Isaiah Flores, as well as total domination from lightning-fast mids Juan Guzman and Ahmed Elsir — both upperclassmen, and headed for a fast track to Varsity next year… kept the Kamiak Knights on top and opened up plenty of opportunity for others to score, including forward Yannick Rothfuss and Elsir.

I confess, when the Cascade defender scored the first goal off a free kick, I worried. Did the Knights have what it takes to pull together, sort out the nerves, and take the other team apart?

In soccer, you never know. I’ve seen lesser teams fall apart over less.

I’m relieved to say the Kamiak Knights 2018 JV team found its groove, settled down, trusted each other, and played like they should, soundly trouncing the Cascade Bruins 7-1.

That free kick early in the first half would be the only goal the Knights allowed.

What a fantastic start to the 2018 season.

Maybe it’s the Font?

I spend a lot of my time envying others.

She’s so good with words. He’s better at Math than me. Why can’t I be more sociable, like my friends? What’s wrong with me, I eat one slice of Paleo bread, and I feel bloated!?

This past weekend, I managed to get out of my way. I managed to forget the others and do me.

Then, a miracle happened.

Doors opened up that were never open before. A friend reached out, giving me a chance to live out my creed. I literally dropped everything to help her, and I did. I was everything she ever needed in that moment. It didn’t cost me a thing. I was happy to do whatever I could. I owed this friend a litany of unpaid, soul-deep debts. I repaid 10-fold, gladly. I saw every wise saying come to life. I was her life raft at a time when she could ill afford the boat.

I stopped trying to please nameless people out there in the readership multi-verse, focused on what I needed and wanted, mostly my son’s new soccer season, and continuing to put my money where my mouth was regarding reciprocal friendship. I even toyed with the idea of retiring from reviewing music altogether.

And then, out of the blue, someone in power at a blog platform asked me to be an editor of an online music publication. Just like that.

Strangers on Twitter tried to engage me in drama over some reality-TV show, and I didn’t care enough to give them what they wanted. I read their fighting words, shrugged, and went back to my life, which was more important.

Articles didn’t load on time. Appointments weren’t confirmed. Emails went unanswered.

And, I didn’t give a fuck.

It was absolutely amazing. I think I’m gonna like this.

Go, JV Knights!

The sun cooperated last week Friday for an exciting preseason soccer match between the Kamiak Knights and Shorecrest. I enjoyed watching through my lens. I missed a lot, but I captured a lot too, so it all evens out.

I feel clear-headed, happy, and normal when I shoot games. When it’s my son’s, I’m fairly bursting with pride, excitement, and nervousness. I also try to remember those who aren’t as fortunate to be given a second chance, much less a first. I hope my son and his teammates remember to love the game as much as they love to win, and to play with love not ego.

Of course, I hope to get even better shots this season, while introducing my amateur sports photography to a brand new set of proud parents and their hopeful, amazing players.

Yes, I enjoy taking photos of all the players, not just my own. Watch them grow stronger together, and kick ass!

Beyond her madness

— Remember when  you saw the moon beyond her madness? me hiding behind you after pancakes and toy cars? pulling a yellow sled for the boys in the middle of a blackout? the midnight in your eyes and the pieces of home in your messy hair as you rose up from the depths of yet another one of her pet projects? you poking me playfully in the side during a sermon about Job and his seven thousand commandments? the grandfatherly way you drove to our getaway by the sea, laughing gently about the journal I gave you?

I remember everything. Everything.

I thought you were the most handsome man in the world. Sometimes, in my dreams, I still do.

The Pink Paisley Shirt


Photo of 1968 Fender Telecaster from Reverb

First of all, we started this time-traveling experiment from a safe place. Let’s get that straight. We were a rag-tag motley group, strays including a few semi-potty-trained dogs roaming around outside (because I’m obsessed with that stuff).

Today, two or three of us were to test-drive this time-traveling machine. Only, there wasn’t a machine to speak of, just us, clutching our things, my unlaced running shoes — Would I have time to tie them? — his quarter, leaning against a wall in this side room of a shopping complex or resort a few miles away from a tourist trap.

Five minutes to go, and we start bickering about what we would do once we got there. Where? Good question. I wanted to get my running in. The other two questioned the importance of running in the past when maybe we should save a famous person from assassination or something.

“What the hell are we planning on doing? Do we even know what year we’re going to?” he asked. I don’t know who he is; he feels familiar, like my husband. He’s the one I clasp the quarter with before it disappears in our hands and we fall back into a strange room through the now-wood-paneled wall like an invisible elevator.

Before we dissolve, another-he says, “Let’s find the quarter I lost.” I have no idea what quarter he’s talking about, but it’s too late for more questions because we’re falling into this motel room, thick curtains drawn.

I go to draw the curtains of this picture window, wondering if the world behind will stay in black and white. As I pull these burlap-thick curtains slowly aside, I’m relieved to see the sepia tone fading into almost cartoonishly bright prime colors outside. The barren, deserted street keeps wanting to change scenery.

Impulsively, I open the front door to the mild protests from behind. They’re still getting their bearings. But I’m dying to know where we landed and when, when I get as far as the back of this motel room. Seaside, we’re seaside, it’s California before the population explosion, it has to be, I tell myself, when the man who reminds me of my husband calls out, “Not too far, we only have two and a half hours, remember.”


I begin to make my way back, when the street in front of our motel room turns into a building on fire, rioters smashing storefronts, angry black rioters. The street returns to normal, then changes again to another scene that will come in the near-future, maybe related to the music explosion, before settling down.

As I make my way back to the front door, slightly nervous about making our way back home to the present, a man wearing a pink paisley shirt approaches from the front office. He’s the manager, looking perturbed. After all, we just appeared out of nowhere, right?

“Uh, I must have missed you folks,” he says to me, deciding whether or not to call the cops.

I have to know. So I interrupt him as charming and as subtle as I hope I can be. “What’s your favorite band?”

He doesn’t miss a beat, “The Mamas and The Papas,” like I was some moron who didn’t know the score, before continuing on about the cheap-as-hell room rates.

I don’t even hear him anymore or care if he does call the cops, because I realize it’s California, circa 1966. I don’t even know how I know this, since I barely paid attention to the hippie flower power craze. Honest to god, I don’t even know when The Mamas and The Papas came into focus.

But I know I’m right. I hear myself quipping, “I am two years old and crapping my pants right now!” The others laugh nervously.

Suddenly, we fast-forward toward the end of this show, two and a half hours later, we’re in front of the setting sun, it’s dusk at this funky olive green-shaded family steak house, and I’m about to cry because this woman tells us something very profound that we take to heart when we get back.

I wish I could remember what she said. The gist was to hold onto the memories, you leave behind more of a legacy with your words and your joy and your journey than you realize, and that the next generation will carry that legacy to heart when you are back in your safe place cheering them on.

Something like that. It was all in the color of the fading sun through the slant of the surf and the sand, the copper in her hair and in the roof of this now-abandoned roadside relic families once gathered at for summer dinners.

Time really isn’t linear or an infrastructure outside ourselves, but … simultaneous and glowing, constantly shifting, parallel, strangely conceptual, and locked in our minds?

Hollister, San Benito, California, USA, circa 1800s, photo from
Hollister, San Benito, Calif., circa 1800s, photo from

When I woke up, I sat on the toilet listening to “California Dreamin'” on YouTube. The opening, inter-woven melody on guitar haunted me. It seemed to hold a secret. Maybe it always had, and I never really paid attention before. My mind does, though. Apparently, my mind pays attention to everything, even California in 1966 when I was still in Korea and wouldn’t arrive for another year or two.

“All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey 
I’ve been for a walk 
On a winter’s day 
I’d be safe and warm 
If I was in L.A.

California dreamin’ 
On such a winter’s day”

—”California Dreamin’,” The Mamas & The Papas

The deeper question is, What else is locked there, and, Where’s the fucking quarter?